Once again, Nigeria's military says it has killed Boko Haram's leader, Abubakar Shekau — this time in an airstrike last week that also wiped out several senior members of the Muslim extremist group.
In a statement released Tuesday, the military says the airstrike "fatally wounded" Shekau but does not provide further details. The statement, signed by army spokesperson Col. Sani Kukaskeka Usman, says the attack took place while militants were praying in a village near their base in northeast Nigeria, and that it was "the most unprecedented and spectacular air raid."
But this is far from the first time the military has boasted about killing Shekau, who took over Boko Haram in 2009. Under his leadership the militants have killed tens of thousands of people and carried out brutal violence in northeastern Nigeria, notably the abduction of 300 young girls from a Chibok school in 2014.
Nigerian security forces first claimed to have killed Shekau in 2009. Shortly after that, he resurfaced unharmed in a video online in which he announced he had taken over Boko Haram. He was reportedly killed again in 2013, and then another time in September 2014. One month after that last purported killing, another video emerged that showed him saying: "Here I am, alive. I will only die the day Allah takes my breath."
The latest announcement of Shekau's death comes as US Secretary of State John Kerry lands in Nigeria to discuss how to quash the group. In 2013, the US government announced a reward of $7 million for Shekau's location.
Shekau has also been embroiled in a leadership battle that may have resulted from the increasing ties between Boko Haram and the Islamic State. Earlier this month, news surfaced that another man, going by the nom de guerre of Abu Musab al-Barnawi, had been tapped by the Islamic State to take over Boko Haram — meaning that even if the latest attempt by the army to kill Shekau has succeeded, the group may have a new leader anyway.
Earlier this month, Boko Haram released a video showing gunmen along with some 50 of the girls captured at the Chibok school. The militants, believed to be still holding more than 200 of the girls they had kidnapped, demanded the government release some of its fighters in exchange for the girls.
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